Remember those “Baby-On-Board” signs that were popular several years back? Studies showed that when they were first introduced they actually had a slight impact on people’s driving habits. Of course, that was a before the cell phones became appendages. These days, having a “Baby-On-Board” sign stuck to your back window would accomplish little more than having to deal with sticky residue on the glass… especially, if you are trying to use the signs as a warning to motorists who talk on cell phones while they drive. According to a new study, you can forget about the sign, instead be vigilant and steer clear of drivers on cell phones.
The summer issue of “Human Factors: The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society” reveals that “people who talk on cell phones while driving, even using hands-free devices, are as impaired as drunk drivers.” Not a very comforting thought to parents (like me) who are constantly on the road, busy shuttling their children back and forth to various summertime activities.
In fact, one of the reasons this study is garnering so much attention is that the researchers who designed the study concluded that: “If legislators really want to address driver distraction, then they should consider outlawing cell phone use while driving.” If you look at the evidence they have to support their claims you can see why they are so passionate about lobbying politicians to institute a new law.
Researchers studied 40 volunteers who used a driving simulator four times —“while undistracted, using a handheld cell phone, using a hands-free cell phone and while intoxicated to a 0.08 percent blood-alcohol level.”(The average legal level of impairment in the United States.)
In the study three of the volunteers rear-ended the simulated car in front of them, not because they were drunk, but because they were talking on cell phones. The study also showed that while volunteers who talked on either handheld or hands-free cell phones drove a bit slower, they were also 9 percent slower to hit the brakes than undistracted drivers. And the volunteers with a 0.08 percent blood-alcohol level drove slower than both undistracted drivers and cell phone users, but more aggressively.
Researchers concluded: “Driving while talking on a cell phone is as bad as or maybe worse than driving drunk.” A sobering revelation considering alcohol was involved in 40% of the 42,000 traffic fatalities that occurred on the nation’s highways last year.
Finally, the study also found that “like many people who have been drinking, the cell phone users did not believe themselves to be affected.” Hmmmmm… So where do you stand on the issue? Do you drive while talking on a cell phone?